Many members of the VA Medical Center's anesthesia team are applying for their old jobs.
Team members say it appears the local VA hospital hopes to employ the staffers rather than contract out through the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The fact that the VA's operating rooms have been closed since March because of problems with humidifiers prompted layoffs of some contracted workers and possibly enabled administrators to start anew.
A local VA spokesman said Friday that while job openings for anesthesia have been announced, this doesn't reflect a new move toward employing staffers and abolishing all contract arrangements with UNMC and Creighton University.
Spokesman Will Ackerman said the VA will hire the most-qualified anesthesia staffers and may end up contracting with UNMC for some if it can't hire enough of its own.
“It could be a mix,” Ackerman said. He said UNMC's contracted anesthesia workers provided excellent service.
He also said he was unaware of any new, concerted effort to employ rather than contract out. It's hard for the VA hospital in Omaha to employ its own staffers because the metro area is a competitive marketplace for health care, he said. The contract for the anesthesia team expired early this year, he said.
Meanwhile, former anesthesia team members are filing applications and interviewing, said anesthesia tech Steve Hultgren. The team includes 15 or more anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, technicians and others.
The chief nurse anesthetist, Jim Sorrell, 67, said he won't reapply. He took retirement from the VA 14 years ago, then became a contracted worker through UNMC. He said he can't return to VA employment because of the retirement.
Humidifiers in the VA's operating rooms broke down in February and March. Since then, the VA has outsourced its surgeries to other hospitals. Ackerman said repairs on the humidifiers and steam system are moving along. The operating rooms may be open for service again in late May, he said.
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